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OP-ED | CEA and AFT: Come Clean With Your Members

by Patrick Riccards | Mar 14, 2012 6:21pm
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

When will Connecticut’s teachers’ unions come clean with Connecticut’s teachers?

For six weeks now, Connecticut educators have attacked Gov. Dannel Malloy and all those who are trying to bring reform to our classrooms for being anti-teacher. The root of this attack? A new teacher evaluation system that emphasizes student learning – specifically, achievement on state exams.

What we haven’t heard, though, is that such an evaluation framework is not created in S.B. 24, the education reform bill currently pending in the Education Committee. No, the teacher evaluation framework talked about so loudly was actually created – and approved – by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) on January 25 and adopted by the State Board of Education on February 10.

Moreover, the seven-member PEAC – which includes the executive directors of both the American Federation of Teachers–Connecticut (AFT) and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) – approved the evaluation framework with no objection.  Both unions provided their full support of the evaluation guidelines.

In fact, when the guidelines were approved by the PEAC, the CEA wrote on its blog:

A council working to develop new educator evaluation guidelines reached favorable consensus today on a basic framework that will meet the needs of Connecticut teachers. CEA has been a strong advocate for teachers as a member of the state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) that has been meeting for over a year…CEA’s voice on the council has resulted in a framework which is consistent with the goal of elevating the teaching profession by holding everyone accountable, while producing a new evaluation system that is fair, valid, reliable, and useful.”

And according to the Connecticut Mirror’s January 25 report on the adoption of the PEAC guidelines:

…both the state’s teachers’ unions said Wednesday they are on board with this plan. ‘This is very robust,’ Mary Loftus Levine, head of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said of the plan. ‘This is a pretty good plan,’ agreed Sharon Palmer, leader of the state’s American Federation of Teachers chapter. “Yes, student improvement and growth is playing a huge role, but it’s factoring it in in a fair way.”

Yes, in January both teachers unions were on board with the evaluation framework they helped develop. Yet today, neither is willing to admit it to their members. When teachers shout down Malloy at town hall meetings for saying the AFT and CEA spent almost two years developing the very evaluation frameworks he is enacting, the unions stay silent. When Malloy is called a “liar” for saying the unions approved the evaluation plan, neither state union steps in to correct the record. 

Let there be no mistake. If S.B. 24 is killed and 2012 is no longer the Year for Education Reform, the new teacher evaluation plan is still law.  It has already been enacted by the State Board of Education, just as the PEAC – including AFT and CEA – requested.  Teachers will still be evaluated. They will be evaluated every year.  And nearly half of that evaluation will be based on student performance, as it should be given that the goal of an education system is to educate students. 

For more than a month now, we have been chasing after red herrings, as accusation after accusation regarding evaluation has been hurled. Talking points from the CEA itself have targeted how unfair the evaluation framework is, ignoring that they were one of its architects and was involved in developing it every step of the way.  Teachers have been misled into action, as leaders have preyed on teachers’ understandable fears and used “unfair” evaluations as a common enemy.

There is much in S.B. 24 that demands debate and discussion. Without question, the voices of Connecticut’s educators should be heard during such a debate. But that discussion should be well informed and based on fact. We should be debating how best to turn around our lowest performing schools. We should be detailing how best to get every child reading by the end of third grade.  And we certainly should be highlighting how to ensure all educators have the supports and professional development they need to do what we are asking of them in the classroom.

But we do real damage to the system and to a shared commitment to our students when we choose to ignore the facts or refuse to acknowledge responsibility just to score a political point.

The record is clear. The state – under the leadership of a small council that included both the AFT and the CEA – developed a new evaluation framework for all teachers. That framework emphasizes student performance above all else.  And that framework was adopted by the PEAC without objection.

The AFT and CEA have an obligation to represent their members and their interests with true zealousness. We should expect no less. But how can the unions negotiate in good faith on any topic when they refuse to acknowledge such negotiations to their membership, as we are now seeing on their agreement on teacher evaluation?  And if they won’t be honest with the tens of thousands of hard-working teachers on an issue like evaluation, what else will they deny or obfuscate?

Patrick Riccards is the CEO of ConnCAN, a statewide education reform advocacy organization.

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(13) Comments

posted by: brutus2011 | March 14, 2012  7:18pm

brutus2011

I don’t where to start with this article.

1. If ConnCan, the CTSDE, charter schools, and local politicians with their BOEs and superintendents, are really concerned with what happens in the classroom, then lets talk about funds to make this a reality.

2. State and local politicians, BOEs, superintendents, and yes, teacher’s unions, don’t ever talk about money. Why?

3. Because the top-down management style of the above education executives only know how to spend ed dollars on layers above the classroom.

4. There is too much waste in the current system—a system that really needs to be disbanded.

5. First thing to do is to get some forensic accountants in to do an objective accounting of where public funds are actually going.

Once we know this, then we can all finally be honest with each other.

posted by: Julia McNamee | March 14, 2012  8:33pm

As I’m pretty sure you know, teachers’ unions did not sign on to SB24, which is what you, Governor Malloy and his other allies have been implying for the last several weeks.

It’s true that many of us, me included, are not in favor of using test data for evaluation purposes, for a variety of reasons, many supported by recent research.

But for most of us the biggest objection is linking our salaries to the eval framework, not the framework itself. That is new and unprecedented. And most of us believe that the ultimate goal is to reduce teacher salaries, just as the ultimate goal of SB24 is to destroy public education and pour thousands and eventually millions of dollars into private ed.

posted by: Noteworthy | March 14, 2012  9:17pm

Yes, Mr. Riccards, it is time to come clean. The medicine you so richly hand out, should be taken by you, your staff and the myriad of related entities to ConnCAN who under the smokescreen of “reform” is seeking tens of millions of dollars and a robust expansion of your charter schools. Despite calls for you to come clean about the web of deceit that has been woven around ConnCAN and Achievement First and other groups including the one running ads on television now, you have refused. Why? In speaking to many of my friends, all of us who supported your reform movement and sided with ConnCAN in its never ending vicious fights with Mayor DeStefano - only to find that all of these organizations have been less than transparent, less than honest about the relationships and coordinated message, strategy and outcomes most of which center around getting more money for your organizations.

That said, what’s your thoughts on former Hartford Super Adamowski getting a state pension and ripping off taxpayers for a benefit he didn’t earn and was not qualified for? He now earns more than $200K a year as a state consultant on reform - but still wants to participate in the state pension. Why is this even in this bill and why was it buried in there?

You know…there is such a mad rush on education reform as if the hundreds of millions in new spending is the end all be all of reform. If I had a dollar from every politician who claimed the best solutions were found in more money - I would be filthy rich and the world, from Hartford to Washington would be a wonderful place free of any problems.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | March 14, 2012  9:35pm

When will ConnCan come clean with parents.

http://thecuckingstool.blogspot.com/2010/09/conncan-con-minncon-next.html

posted by: Gloriawea1 | March 14, 2012  11:07pm

Teachers know that the CEA and AFT agreed to the framework for evaluations you have described. They have been upfront with their members about this. What CEA and AFT did NOT agree to is tying evaluations, tenure, certification, and salaries into one big package as the Governor seems to want to do in SB 24. He is being disingenuous when he tells the crowds, “But your unions agreed to this.”  They did NOT agree to anything but the framework for evaluations. The Governor is trying to drive a wedge between the teachers and the union by trying to make the members think the unions agreed to what is in the bill. We know better and we aren’t buying it.

posted by: AMM | March 15, 2012  7:44am

When will Mr. Riccards come clean that he is nothing more than a snake oil salesman who really does NOT care about children, but only wants to use them in order to seek more public funds to the charter school and lobby network?  This bill is a gift to professional manipulators such as himself that will allow teachers to be disposable, regionalize functioning school systems who will be hurt by state interference, and will make the entire state of breeding ground for shady charters his cronies will open.  How he sleeps at night is beyond me.  Then again he obviously has no conscience.

posted by: jonpelto | March 15, 2012  9:07am

Some people tell the truth, some people twist the truth through the use of rhetoric and some people just make stuff up.  Rather than try to respond to some of these absurd statements I’d ask people to stop over at my site where you will find the truth about each of the points ConnCAN brings up.
www.jonathanpelto.com

posted by: Mike B. | March 15, 2012  12:13pm

Riccards needs to come clean with ConnCAN’s supporters, and the public.  He knows full well that, while CEA and AFT signed on to the PEAC evaluation proposal, no one expected that it would be tied to tenure, certification, and salary in the ways it is in the Governor’s SB 24. Riccards also knows that the PEAC framework is just that- a framework, not a fully designed system that can be used in the ways imagined in the Governor’s proposal.
Misleading the public on education issues is par for the course with ConnCAN, but this is more:  it’s a pathetic attempt to drive a wedge between rank and file teachers and their union leadership.  It’s not working.

posted by: CONconn | March 19, 2012  3:26pm

Patrick Riccards can’t seem to post his lies anywhere on the web without being corrected. It’s time for CONconn to come clean about their privatization agenda. They aren’t fooling anyone.

posted by: mbracksieck | March 19, 2012  4:30pm

It all comes to this: SB 24 opens the door for the privatization of public education and that’s what Riccards is interested in.  His connections at the state BOE are going to funnel $10million to his connections at Achievement First. 

Public education for only some students is not public education.

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-private-companies-out-of-public-education

posted by: ConcernedVoter | March 19, 2012  9:20pm

Hey, I just did some research on these guys.  Do you know that a local school recently sent back the award they gave them?  Something is not right with this group!

http://www.scribd.com/doc/82620700/ConnCan-Rejection-Letter

posted by: CONconn | March 20, 2012  7:41am

If ConnCAN was the least bit reputable, wouldn’t there be a single positive shred of information about them on the internet, that wasn’t put out by their own network propaganda machine? Instead, they spend all day deleting the numerous posts on their facebook page and their CCER website that contradict their blatant lies. But just like Rhee’s pack of public education pirates—who couldn’t muster more than 75 people at their rally in Hartford—ConnCAN is slowly learning that while they may have the cash to burn on over $600,000 in CT lobbying, all the cheap blue t-shirts in the world can’t help them manufacture enough citizens needed to give the appearance of the “grassroots” movement they pretend that they are.

posted by: bseferian | March 20, 2012  11:45am

I have heard the pro S.B. 24 TV commercials.  The two reasons for supporting the reform are: “more freedom in the classroom” and “putting (kids) first.”  Could someone please tell me what this means?  Where in S.B. 24 is “more freedom in the classroom” addressed?  Freedom for who? Second, who can explain how requiring the districts to re-structure their salary schedules to correspond with the governor’s version of fair pay will result in higher achievement or a reduction in the achievement gap?  I have taught students with special needs in Connecticut for 30 years.  I have earned a Master’s Degree, a 6th Year Certificate of Advanced Study, and a Doctorate in Education.  The Board of Education in the city where I’m employed pays me what they (as the representatives of the people) believe is commensurate with my experience and training.  Why would the governor and his advisors want to undermine the democratic process?  How exactly will this create more freedom in the classroom or put children first?